The Big Story: Different standards
The Digital India initiative set up by the Modi government aims to work towards a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. Yet, on Thursday, it diverged somewhat from these goals as it took to tweeting out a Hindi poem which "asked the Army not to stop firing on people till they come to the city square and sing the national anthem", reported the Indian Express.
For this statement calling for people to be killed in a place where tens of thousands of people have already died to due to state human rights abuses, the punishment was decidedly mild. The Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the person who tweeted the poem has been suspended.
Interestingly, the authorities have shown far greater resolve when dealing with any hint of violence online when the perpetrator happens to be Muslim. In 2014, a pro-Islamic State handle owner was arrested from Bangalore. Since his hate speech was directed at Indians, the police booked him under the arcane section 125 of the Indian Penal Code charging him with “waging war against any Asiatic power in alliance with the Government of India”.
While the police had gone to great lengths to nab this man, other people directly threatening the peace in India have got off scot free. In August, 2015, for example, social media users spread malevolent rumours of a non-existent communal riot in Kolkata. These rumours, in turn, could easily have sparked off real-world violence. Yet no action was taken.
During Mumbai’s Ganesh Puja this year, the pattern was repeated with some Twitter handles publishing rumours of a fictitious communal attack. While the Mumbai Police did register a case against the person tweeting, his arrest is yet to be confirmed. This case is similar to the Durga Pujo rumour-mongering in 2015, where again no action was taken.
For each time the authorities let instances of such majoritarian hate go by while targeting minority figures such as Islamic preacher Zakir Naik for hate speech, the democratic space in the country shrinks even further. After all, hate doesn’t come up in some wave of fire. Hate in society normalises itself, makes itself part and parcel of day-to-day life. Then it proceeds to wreak havoc on the weak. In India, social media is playing a strong role in normalising that hate.
- The first open signs of dissent has emerged in the People's Democratic Party. MLA Muzaffar Hussain Baig says the government has failed to deliver.
- Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Kanhaiya Kumar attacked Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat for saying that the Narendra Modi government was not fascist but "authoritarian".
- The Union government hardens its stance, will not hold talks with Kashmir separatists
- India must the use the anti-immigrant mood in the West to its advantage and stop brain drain, says Swapan Dasgupta in the Telegraph.
- Muslim women must count on their constitutional guarantees, not readings of religion, argues Razia Patel in the Indian Express.
- The G20 is an important forum that has lost its focus, says Ashok Sajjanhar in the Hindustan Times.
Buried beneath the Board’s unashamed defence of instant triple talaq on the grounds that it prevents women from being murdered by their husbands, the Muslim Law Board’s affidavit in the Supreme Court has a few positives for women, says Flavia Agnes.
The agency of the Muslim woman and her multiple choices, which are seldom highlighted, are captured in a nutshell in this affidavit. This is generally not highlighted in the media. This approach of negating the positive aspects of Muslim Law is a great disservice to Muslim women.
The affidavit goes further, and admonishes Shayara Bano for rushing to the Supreme Court without first availing of the remedies under various statutes in a local court. The affidavit further affirms that these remedies would have benefited her as the appropriate judicial authorities could give effective orders. On these grounds, the affidavit claims that the Public Interest Litigation that Bano filed with two other petitioners must be dismissed. These statements help to clear the misconceptions that a divorced Muslim woman has no rights under the existing laws.